There were about 24 officials in Bulgaria who were arrested and detained last week for selling fake certificates of ancestry to citizens of Ukraine, Moldova, and Macedonia. They sold these certificates through illegal means and made a lot of money from it. Having such certificate issued by the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, SABA for short bestows on its holder the right to apply for citizenship.
The SABA boss, PetarHaralampiev who is also an infamous nationalist politician, was suspected to be at the forefront of this fraud. He was consequently arrested and removed from office.
The Bulgaria desk of DW first reported SABA’s illegal activities in 2012. Right from 2013, a lawyer by name KatjaMateva, constantly reported the matter to some senior officers in government. Mateva formerly served as the head of citizenship department in the Ministry of Justice in Bulgaria. Also in 2014, the then deputy minister of Justice, Petko Petkov forwarded a memorandum on this issue to GeorgiBliznashki, the Prime Minister for Interim. He still did nothing.
Mateva revealed to DW how she was not carried along with the goings on in the Ministry of Justice until she was laid off in 2017. Petkov, on the other hand, was tagged a traitor by his colleagues. According to Mateva and Petkov, the senior officials in Bulgaria did not show any interest in stopping the fraudulent activities.
With the ancestry certificates, one can get citizenship in Hungary and Romania too.
Can EU citizenship now be bought?
There is also a subtle sale of EU golden visas where foreigners from non-EU member states come into the EU as an investor and use the same medium to buy permanent residence or citizenship. Countries whose visas programs have such features include Hungary, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, Latvia, Spain, Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Great Britain, and Greece.
According to reports from Global Witness and Transparency International, not less than 6,000 people and 100,000 people have bought citizenship and permanent residency respectively through this means since the past ten years. This scheme has so far brought in 25 billion EUR (28.5 USD) in income.
These NGOs insist that the golden visas encourage money laundering and that through the visa scheme, some fraudulent businesses have used their destination countries as hideouts.
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